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    What Is Malbec Wine? (Best Varieties, Taste & Characteristics)

    Malbec Wine Guide

    Malbec Wine is celebrated worldwide for its robust tannins, mild acidity, and chocolatey finish that leaves you wanting more.

    Rich, dark, and deliciously smooth.

    In this article, we'll explore everything there is to know about malbec wine, its taste, food pairings that go well with the wine, how malbec compares to other wines and its history.

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    Malbec Wine - The Ultimate Guide

    Malbec Wines

    In France, winemakers typically use Malbec grapes in Bordeaux blends, although this versatile grape pairs beautifully with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    It is a red wine quite unlike any other.

    While it grows primarily in the Southwest of France and the Mendoza region of Argentina, you’ll find its inky purple grapes in Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and even the United States.

    Malbec vines thrive in sunny climes.

    In terms of food pairings, Malbec wines work elegantly alongside lean red meats such as filet steak and ostrich, and if you are yet to try it with blue cheese, you are in for a treat.

    What Is Malbec Red Wine?

    Malbec Wine Taste

    Malbec red wines are dry yet full-bodied.

    They exhibit dark, jammy fruit flavours such as plums and blackberries on the nose, followed by notes of:

    • Dark chocolate
    • Vanilla
    • Oak
    • Tobacco

    Due to their moderate acid and tannin levels, Malbec wines are easy to drink and pair well with many different foods.

    What Does Malbec Taste Like?

    Malbec grapes

    On the nose and palate, Malbec wines are all about fruit, rich, delicious fruits, such as:

    • Blackberry
    • Black cherry
    • Plums
    • Blueberry

    You may find notes of raspberries and pomegranate in lighter French varieties, but Argentinean malbecs are dark and plummy.

    Other Malbec wine characteristics include dark chocolate, cocoa, molasses, mocha, black pepper and tobacco, with mild oak and vanilla undertones for a smooth and satisfying finish.

    Malbec is typically aged for 4-6 months in oak barrels, although premium blends could spend as much as 20 months in French oak barrels to achieve the perfect texture, colour, and flavour.

    It has medium acidity levels and tannins and blends well with many other red grapes.

    How to Serve Malbec Wines

    Malbec Serving Temperature

    Malbec is best served chilled at 16°- 17°C, just below room temperature.

    To experience its full depth of flavour, use a wine fridge set to 16°- 17°C for the ideal serving temperature, or pop it in the fridge for around 20-minutes.

    If you need to buy a wine fridge, shop them online here, or read our guide on how to buy a wine fridge here.

    Best Foods to Pair with Malbec Wines

    t bone steak

    Here are the best foods to pair with a bottle of Malbec wine:


    Malbec and meat pair perfectly.

    Try a bottle with lean steaks fresh from the grill, beef brisket and pork shoulder that has been cooking for hours, with spicy Chilli con Carne, or keep it simple with a burger and fries.

    The versatility of this red wine knows no bounds.

    Pair it with venison, game meats, a rack of ribs, or meat empanadas. You can’t go wrong.

    Herbs and Spices

    Malbec red wines pair best with smoky spices and earthy herbs.

    Think smoked paprika, juniper berry, garlic, black pepper, coriander, green onion, and cloves.

    You’ll find that Malbec balances foods with herbs such as parsley, rosemary, and thyme, while gently enhancing vanilla bean and barbecue sauce flavours.


    Food Pairings - Meat, Cheese, Pepper

    Full-bodied and fruity, Malbec pairs beautifully with cheeseboards.

    Try it with goat’s cheese, semi-firm cow’s milk cheeses, hard mature cheddar, or even a delicious blue cheese such as stilton.

    It works well with smoked varieties of gouda and cheddar, too.


    While most wine connoisseurs will tell you to enjoy Malbec with red meat, it pairs exceptionally well with vegetarian foods.

    Try it with roasted vegetables, mushroom dishes, super-greens such as chard, kale, and arugula, and store cupboard essentials like black beans, lentils, and even rice.

    Its versatility makes Malbec the perfect choice for those following a meat-free diet.

    Malbec Wine Regions Around the World

    While Malbec originated in Cahors in the Southwest of France, it is Mendoza in Argentina that homes almost 75% of Malbec vineyards worldwide.

    Malbec vines thrive in this sun-drenched spot at the foot of the Andes Mountains and produce red wines bursting with flavour and intensity.

    The Difference Between Argentinean Malbec and French Malbec

    While many countries product Malbec wines, French and Argentinean varieties remain the most popular.

    Here are some tasting differences between the two:

    Argentinean Malbec

    argentinian vineyard

    Pop open a bottle of Argentine Malbec, and you’ll immediately notice its fruity bouquet.

    This fruitiness continues on the palate, with notes of plum, black cherry and blackberry in every sip.

    Nuanced flavours include chocolate, leather, violet flowers, and cocoa powder, and those aged slightly longer in oak barrels have a sweet tobacco finish.

    French Malbec

    french vineyard

    They may be made from the same grape, but French Malbec Wines are strikingly different to those from Argentina.

    They have a higher acidity, which brings black pepper and spiciness to the palate, with notes of tart currants, smooth leather, and a savoury bitterness that may take you by surprise.

    Malbec wines from France typically age longer than those from Argentina, with those grown at higher elevation spots particularly good at maintaining acidity levels.

    What To Look For In A Malbec Wine

    Hand-harvested Malbec wines are far superior to the machine-harvested alternatives, but mechanised processes are improving.

    If you are looking for a quality Malbec wine to add to your collection, choose one from Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza or Cahors in France.

    These regions are revered worldwide for their premium Malbecs, although, as we mentioned before, they are characteristically very different.

    Malbec wines aged for 15 months or more before release are a good investment for any red wine collection.

    Due to their extended ageing, they will continue to age well in your wine cellar at home, with some French varieties remaining stable for up to 20 years.

    Top rated Malbecs typically have:

    • Acidity rating of 5-7g/L
    • Residual sugar content of less than 1g/L
    • pH ranges from 3.65 to 3.75

    Related Malbec articles:

    The History of Malbec

    Like most wines, the history of Malbec remains unclear.

    While some storytellers will have us believe that a Hungarian peasant first planted the vine throughout France, others will tell us that it was Roman invaders who developed Malbec in the country.

    What we do know, the first records of Malbec, then named Auxerrois or Côt Noir, date back to the 16th century, when it was known as the Black Wine of Cahors.

    malbec and pizza

    Malbec was a popular grape in Bordeaux until 1956 when frost destroyed 75% of crops.

    While winemakers in the region decided not to replant Malbec vines, those in Cahors, who also lost their crops in the frost, decided to give the grape another chance, and the vines thrived.

    However, it remained a minor grape in France for many years, used predominantly for blends, until winemakers started making 100% Malbec wines.

    Malbec was first introduced in Argentina in the mid-1880s by French agronomist Miguel Pouget.

    The vines quickly adapted to Mendoza's warmer and drier climate.

    Today, they cover almost 100,000 acres in the region.

    Many wine connoisseurs claim that Argentina saved the Malbec grape and made it what it is today. We are inclined to agree.


    Malbec Wine Vs Other Wines

    Bottles of Wine

    Malbec Wine vs Shiraz Wine

    While Malbec and Shiraz are both fruity, full-bodied wines, Shiraz is slightly more complex.

    Malbec is smoother with notes of plum, blackcurrant, and vanilla, whereas Shiras is smoky and spicy, delivering a peppery finish on the palate.

    Learn about Shiraz here.

    Malbec Wine vs Merlot Wine

    Comparing Malbec vs Merlot wines is like comparing Old World and New World wines.

    They are very different but have many similarities.

    Both Merlot and Malbec wines are bursting with berry flavours, and they pair well with various types of food, but Malbec wines have softer tannins and lower acidity than Merlot wines, and this is why they are so easy to drink.

    Learn about Merlot here.

    Malbec Wine vs Pinot Noir Wine

    Winemakers often blend Malbec and Pinot Noir grapes, but separately, they make very different wines.

    But what how do you compare Malbec Vs Pinot Noir?

    Pinot Noir is typically a light, aromatic wine, while Malbec is a classic fruity blend.

    Combined, they make a delicious, well-balanced wine with notes of red berries, plums, dark raspberries, and violets.

    Learn more about Pinot Noir here

    Are Malbec Wines Dry or Sweet?

    Both French and Argentinean Malbec Wines are dry and full-bodied.

    Those from France are slightly less juicy and jammy than the Argentine alternatives, but they both exhibit dark fruit, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, and oak notes.

    Is Malbec Strong?

    With an ABV of 13-14%, the alcohol content of Malbec wines is comparable to that of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

    Before You Go...

    Malbec Vinyard

    We hope you enjoyed our article on malbec wine.

    Do you need to know about other popular wine types to add something extra to your next dinner party?

    Read our next article about popular red wine types (and why) here...

    Popular Red Wine Types (Full Guide)

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin